Community college helped finalist take new path

CHAMPAIGN – Growing up in a family that didn't respect higher education, Robert Exley worked for years before he went back to college, and he believes a community college made all the difference.

Exley, 51, is one of five finalists to replace Zelema Harris as president of Parkland College. On Thursday, he talked with Parkland staffers about how teachers gave him their full attention, and pushed him to excel, at San Jacinto College in Houston.

Local districts giving new test provider a big fat F

URBANA – School officials say area students who were psyched up to take Illinois Standards Achievement Tests this week did their best to measure up to standards.

But they say the test publishers flat-out flunked, a fiasco so extensive state Superintendent Randy Dunn said Thursday he's close to recommending Harcourt Assessment's new contract be canceled. He also said he'd hold the company responsible for extra expenses districts like Urbana incurred last weekend when officials frantically copied test-taking materials that failed to arrive on time.

First Parkland candidate shows light, serious sides

CHAMPAIGN – Parkland College presidential candidate Betty Young is an expert on nontraditional students.

She was one herself, entering college at 28 and going on to earn a doctorate and a law degree.

Danville school officials to discuss cuts in personnel

DANVILLE – This week, about 100 certified and noncertified employees in the Danville school district will receive notices that their positions will be eliminated next school year.

The cuts are budget driven.

Proposal for new schools gets mixed review

CHAMPAIGN – Three community members involved in the equity struggle in Champaign schools for the past decade say they support the district's $66 million building program – for the most part.

Imani Bazzell, Thom Moore and Tracy Parsons, all members of the district's planning and implementation committee, said schools need updating.

A decade later, all sides praise the progress

CHAMPAIGN – When Carol Ashley first came to Champaign in 1996 to look at schools, top district administrators were all white. Black students rode buses every day to schools far from home.

"If someone today called a Barkstall parent and said, 'Your student's going to another school next year,' that parent would be up in arms," said Ashley, a Chicago attorney who represented plaintiffs – all mothers of black children – in legal actions resulting in a consent decree.

UI-themed pool table, other items up for bid at auction

TOLONO – Want a University of Illinois-themed pool table, hot air balloon ride or year's supply of custard?

On Thursday night, those and more than 100 other items will be going, going, gone.

After public outcry, Villa Grove board reinstates 2 fired teachers

VILLA GROVE – The Villa Grove school board faced more than 250 parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens Monday night at a meeting that went into the early morning today, leading to the reinstatement of two fired teachers – and the resignation of the board president.

Last Thursday, high school Principal Mary Pritchard fired Janet McCumber and Aaron Davis, respectively the choir instructor and the head football coach.

DACC trustees to mull increase in tuition

DANVILLE – Students attending Danville Area Community College may have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to pay tuition this summer.

Currently, DACC's combined tuition and fee rate is $64 per credit hour, which includes $58 toward tuition and a $6 fee toward technology and student activities.

District always looking for ways to save cooling money

CHAMPAIGN – Energy costs at a Champaign school retrofitted with air-conditioning 10 years ago aren't much higher than at other schools, even though it operates year-round.

But costs vary greatly among the schools, depending on a building's use, district officials say.